Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
Only within the last twelve years has it been found advisable to set up machinery to deal with matters of a general nature involving questions of principle affecting classes or grades of workers. Previously matters in dispute were generally settled by direct discussion between the district officers and the men concerned. The economic disturbance and the rise in the cost of living that directly followed the war witnessed the rapid growth of the trade union movement amongst railway employees, in common with other industrial workers all over India. By 1919 workers had resorted to strikes in order to force increases of wages, and for a year or two these were frequent. Most of them were the result of grievances regarding wages and other service conditions, some took the form of protests against discharges or dismissals and a small number was said to be due to extraneous influences. In an effort to provide means of discussion of questions in dispute, a district welfare committee was introduced in 1922 in the traffic department of one railway. The following year the then Chief Commissioner of Railways advocated a scheme of co-ordinated local committees for the local settlement of disputes and, what was considered more important, for their prevention. He visualised in each district of the railway a committee composed of equal numbers of workers and of representatives of the administration, the work of these committees being co-ordinated by a central council for each railway. The functions of the committees would extend to a variety of subjects, embracing not only the ventilation and timely redress of grievances but all matters connected with the welfare of the staff. Their recommendations would be considered by the competent authorities, and matters of a general nature affecting the railway system as a whole would be placed before the central council and the Agent, who would have in his office a welfare section in the charge of a special officer.
Early in 1924, a workshop committee was set up on one of the railways and in later years committees have been formed on all Class I railways, with the exception of two of the smaller administrations. These committees are I differently designated as shop, welfare or staff committees and, although there are differences of constitution and functions, the general principles underlying all are those indicated by the Chief Commissioner in 1923. In each case a commencement has been made with the establishment of a joint committee, either in the workshop or in the traffic department; after which similar committees have usually been organised for other branches of the staff. We have received a good deal of evidence as to the advantages and disadvantages of the system of joint works committees and have been supplied with statements giving particulars of the subjects dealt with by different committees and the manner of their disposal. These show that committees on some of the railways are serving a useful purpose and are meeting with a measure of success, in spite of opposition on the part of some of the trade unions. It is natural that the unions should object to the encouragement given by the administrations to the works committees which the unions look upon as rival institutions, undemocratic in constitution, and concerning the setting up of which they have not been consulted. The All-India Railwaymen's Federation observes that " so-called welfare committees " are set up only when the unions show signs of increasing activity. Although this statement may not be in accordance with the facts, it is worthy of remark that the two Class I railways on which there are no unions are the two on which no steps have been taken to form works committees.